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What if I told you that you could make money from a product or service that you don’t have to create, test, or fund? That’s sort of the name of the game with affiliate marketing, and spoiler alert, you don’t need a Kylie Jenner level following to be successful at it.
Think about this… How often do you recommend things to your friends? Like… your go-to hairstylist, your favorite hotel, that skincare product that changed your life, the new Netflix series, that Starbucks concoction you swear by, the best margaritas in town… you get the point, we often LOVE to tell people about the things we love and enjoy.
We all do it to some extent, and affiliate marketing done really, really well can be a monetarily rewarding version of you sharing your very favorite things on your terms, in a way that makes you feel excited to share.
In this episode I’ll go to go a little deeper into what my affiliate marketing style is like, talk about an online course that I actually affiliated on this year that wasn’t my own, give a few more tangible tips for doing it the right way, AKA not feeling phony or slimy, and offer up my advice on how to find and choose the right companies or brands to work with.
My personal affiliate marketing style
Before this year, I had never affiliated for a course before in my life. Now, just in the last few months, I’ve made more than seven figures in affiliate commissions by sharing other people’s resources and programs with my audience and the best part is? I love sharing good education and serving my audience with things I would never create on my own.
I realized that if there are programs I try out and love and wholeheartedly believe in, or courses created by people who I trust and know will deliver, and they also cover content that I never plan to teach on, why wouldn’t I share a resource with my audience? It would almost be a disservice to my people if I didn’t promote something that I so fully believed in and got so much out of myself.
Before working on course launches as an affiliate, I had done affiliate marketing in other ways, but I’ve always been extremely selective in who I choose to partner with and what I choose to promote. You’ve probably heard me talk about the natural skincare line I’m fully obsessed with called Primally Pure, and I always share the software programs that help my business to function well, like Honeybook and The Contract Shop, or the new email provider that is making my (and my student’s lives) way easier called Flodesk… you get the point.
These companies aren’t just some random businesses that reached out to me — they’re actual products that I use, love, and would recommend to others whether or not they paid me commissions — they are founders I love and believe in and humans who are working to create solutions for people like my audience and so sharing their work is awesome and easy.
Why have I found success with affiliate marketing? Because I’ve spent years upon years building up the trust of my followers. My audience trusts the products I put my name behind. They know that I wouldn’t be sharing something with enthusiasm just for a paycheck — it has to actually be something that tremendously benefits my life, that I have had true experience with and that I believe will benefit their life or business.
Start with Serving
Before you even pitch a brand, you need to make sure you have two solid things: an established foundation of trust with your audience and a personal experience with the brand, service, or product that you’re willing to shout from the rooftops. If affiliate marketing is something you want in your future, start today — as an unofficial affiliate, sharing the things you love, links to places you shop, and resources you enjoy.
Start giving your recommendations for free, no strings attached, so that you build up your audiences trust over time. Don’t wait until there’s something in it for you — do it for you audience because if you truly care, there IS something in it for them. It doesn’t matter if you have 2,000 followers or 20,000, if they aren’t engaged with your current content or if they don’t trust your recommendations, they aren’t going to click through to something that you’re promoting.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, your word is your strongest asset because you won’t get paid if people don’t want to take action. So how do you build trust?
If you start by serving your people 100 percent of the time, they’ll start considering you as a trusted friend and expert in your industry. Answer the questions you know your audience is looking for solutions to. Show up with realness and vulnerability. Share your sources. Freely tag the things getting you results in your life.
I can guarantee if you show up as the real you and serve your audience, it will grow organically and people will know what kind of content to expect from you, including endorsements for things that you find useful in your own life or business. It all starts with that slow introduction to easing your audience into a periodic sharing of what you find cool or valuable or helpful week by week.
Check for an Existing Affiliate Program
If you’ve found a product you love and use, go check to see if the company already has an existing affiliate program or a way for you to have a referral code and incentive to share. Be sure they also have a way set up for you to track your efforts and numbers while sharing with your community. While affiliate marketing is an awesome way to share stuff you love and generate income, it’s also a fun way to get new free products or credits toward your favorite products! If that’s not a win-win, I don’t know what is.
If the company doesn’t have an active affiliate program, you can still communicate your interest in partnering with them by simply reaching out in an email. Share your genuine admiration for the company and product, your personal experience using it, why you love it so much, and how it’s impacted your life. Let them know a little about your audience and why you also think their products could really serve your audience, too.
Just make sure you do your research to show you know all about them before even getting to talking about what you have to offer as a potential partner. Treat this as if you’re applying for a commission based sales position within their company, because that’s essentially exactly what you’re doing!
It’s almost like a job interview, but one that you initiate and lead. You want to come across as knowledgeable about the brand, trustworthy, and eager, but without taking too much of their time. Finally, you can present your plans in the best light and how you hope to share their offer with your audience. You might want to consider sharing all your stats and audience demographics to support why you’d make a great partner. The worst thing that could happen is they don’t answer or they say no.
If that happens, no sweat off your back! Luckily, there are so many options for products we all use in our lives and love endorsing to friends, so just move onto the next one on your list that you think your audience could truly benefit from. Nowadays, so many companies are excited about affiliates and they are seeing the power of providing incentives for the people on the ground, marketing their products, so look at the products and services you’re already using and do some research!
Think outside the box
It’s different for everyone, but the more creative you can get, the better. I know people really appreciated me sharing about my struggle with fertility and the process I went through switching to natural products as a result of the obstacles we faced.
It was a natural transition (get it? Natural) to share the favorite natural skincare line I switched to during that major life change after testing a bunch out, and it just so happened that natural skincare has become a hot topic that a lot of women are interested in learning more about. I still share about those products today because I’m obsessed with them.
So first, ask yourself: what in your world is beneficial to your friends and fits with your story in an aligned way?
Meet them where they’re at
After an affiliate launch earlier this year, a bunch of guys were hitting me up asking me how I did it, how I sold so well. The truth was, I met my audience where they were at and delivered on their biggest need. I took the time to really listen to my audiences struggles, figured out what a solution would be, and then shared the offer in a way that spoke to those who were ready for it.
We all have a certain tone that we talk and write in — and hopefully it’s the one that comes natural to you and your personality. Stay authentic through the whole process — like you’re talking to a friend. If you suddenly incorporate a bunch of sales jargon or messaging that a brand wrote for you to share, it’ll be super evident to your followers that it’s not a genuine version of you.
When I was launching, I was personally responding to every DM with a video (usually of me and Coco) and answering their questions one by one… why? Because I cared enough to help them make a decision.
As you start to share, make sure it’s coming from a place of service, not selling. It’s exciting to get to share your favorite stuff, but don’t let that excitement CHANGE the way that you share it. Keep promoting your affiliates in the same way you’d talk about your day or share a new favorite book.
Make it original
It’s easy to look at what other affiliates are doing and simply imitate, but the true secret sauce to affiliate marketing is to think outside of the box and to use your personal story of transformation as the pinnacle. People will relate to your original story more than they will relate to testimonials from strangers or pre-packaged marketing lingo from the brand.
On that note, try to avoid sounding like all the other people online selling stuff. I know that sounds like a broad request, but just because your favorite influencer shares affiliate links in her stories in a certain way doesn’t mean that’s how you should share yours.
Find a way to share that’s original to your own personality and brand and that resonates with your audience as much as possible. Keeping their wants and needs front of mind is absolutely key. Don’t be afraid to experiment, the best part of affiliate marketing is you get to test and see what works because you’re in control of how and when you share.
Add bonuses if possible
One of the best things about affiliate marketing is that you can get the opportunity to sweeten the deal and make it irresistible for your audience. I am always looking for ways to add a bonus because gaining my audiences votes through their credit card really matters to me.
Whether I throw in extra templates, offer group coaching, create an extra module to teach some accompanying information, or pass along bonus knowledge to heighten their results, I am always partnering with the brands to figure out how to give my audience an added bonus. Whatever your audience would value getting from you that’s worth your time and energy if they choose to invest in the affiliate, try offering that up to generate even more interest.
Create a strategy
Successful affiliate marketing doesn’t happen by chance — there’s a lot of strategy involved and I think it’s easy to see someone slap a discount code on their story and assume that’s all they have to do to make a quick buck. But the best affiliate marketers create smart strategy about how they share affiliates — how often they share, where they share, and how they can ultimately serve their audience well by sharing.
I’ve found the most success in long term affiliate partnerships where my audience gets to hear about the brand and offer over and over and over again until they are ready. There are so many ways you can prime your audience and create a true marketing strategy around what it is you will share.
You can leverage social media, email lists, podcast episodes, Facebook ads, and more, so build a strategy that’s service-based and consistent, so you’re not bombarding your audience with opportunities all day or popping in with a code seemingly at random every other month.
The Big Picture
I hope you end this episode feeling supported and enabled to kick-start your own affiliate marketing journey. Whether you become an affiliate for online programs or opt to share about products or services you love to get a kickback, or you dive into an MLM type business, affiliate marketing can be a total game changer and a great way to drive income into your world. So share what you love, shout the things that are working from you from the rooftops, and always check in with yourself to make sure you’re still in alignment with your bigger dreams and vision for your life. Press play on the episode above for the full discussion on affiliate marketing and even more advice to find your own success with this model.